[URBAN NOTE] “Future Generations Will Foot the Bill for City Council’s Incompetence Today”
Torontoist features John Parker’s criticism of city council for not properly budgeting expenses in the coming fiscal year.
“What’s a million?” a comment famously attributed to Canadian wartime minister C.D. Howe, is one of those lines so rich in its obvious contempt for the sensibilities of the average taxpayer that it is almost a shame that there is no record that he actually said it.
But we now know that the spirit of that remark lives on in today’s Toronto City Hall. Over the years, $1 million has increased to $2 million. And we now know that this is the premium Toronto City Council submitted for future taxpayers to pay, just so that they could bring down the curtain on a 15-hour day of kicking the same tired old issues around the floor of council on 2017 budget decision day, to the point where someone, in effect, said, “It’s late, we’re all tired, and we want to go home.”
It’s not as if the 2017 budget process hadn’t already gone through a long and detailed series of analytical steps and decision points long before midnight on February 15. There is a budget committee that meets regularly throughout the year. City staff had released their preliminary 2017 numbers before the end of 2016. Community information sessions had been held. Special budget committee meetings had taken place. Recommendations and proposals had been submitted, discussed, and voted on at the Executive Committee. The bulk of about $10.5 billion dollars of tax that supported operating spending in the original proposal had emerged from the process pretty much unscathed. Proposed spending lined up neatly with projected revenues, in accordance with the law that imposes at least that degree of fiscal discipline on every municipal government in the province of Ontario.
As the midnight hour approached, there was just one problem. After taking into account all the recommendations from staff in all departments, and after all the town halls, and after all the committee meetings, and deputations, and proposals, and votes, Toronto City Council decided that the budget they were about to adopt just didn’t provide for the City’s roads to be clean enough. Two million dollars in street sweeping, to be exact, had to be added to the plan. So it was added.